CHICAGO (AP) -Jim Thome figured the Minnesota Twins would fight the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central championship. If they keep hitting like this, they'll get the knockout.
Thome knocked his 579th homer, Joe Mauer had three more hits and the Twins took sole possession of the AL Central lead by beating the White Sox 12-6 on Tuesday night.
``We knew coming into this season, they were going to have a very good ballclub,' said Thome, who spent nearly four years with the White Sox before getting dealt to the Dodgers late last season. ``In our division, when you look at it, when you play the White Sox you've got to bear down. They've got a good club, good pitching, good bullpen.'
For the Twins, it was a good start to a showcase series between the top two teams in the division. Now, they're alone atop the Central for the first time since July 2.
For the White Sox?
``It was a very, very bad game from the beginning,' manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The Twins pounded out five homers, starting with Thome's drive to left-center on the first pitch of the second to kick off a four-run burst against his former team that made it 5-0.
J.J. Hardy and Mauer each went deep against Freddy Garcia (10-5) in the inning, and the Twins pulled away after Chicago's Carlos Quentin hit a three-run shot off Scott Baker (10-9) in the bottom half.
Mauer now has 25 hits in 46 at_bats after going 3 for 5 and Minnesota pounded out 14 in all while winning for the fifth time in six games.
``We see stretches like this all the time with him, where he's just on every ball and getting big hits,' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``I'd say it amazes me, but I don't know about that anymore.'
Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer each added two-run homers.
It was another difficult night for the White Sox, who managed just 10 runs while dropping three of four at Baltimore and falling into a first-place tie.
Manager Ozzie Guillen went off on another tangent before the game in which he wondered why there was so much attention on the Twins and said his own team does not ``feel the support.' He said the White Sox deserve more credit, but they didn't exactly back him while taking just their second home loss in 15 games.
Garcia allowed six runs and eight hits over 2 1-3 innings after going 7-1 in his previous 12 starts, and while the White Sox showed some pop at the plate, it wasn't enough to make up for his difficulties.
Baker allowed five runs over six shaky innings. But he got enough support this time after throwing eight scoreless innings while taking a no-decision in his previous start against Tampa Bay.
The teams will play another three-game set at Target Field next week, and the odds that these series would showcase the top two teams in the division seemed slim not too long ago, given Chicago's problems early in the season.
``They're playing well right now,' Paul Konerko said. ``We're playing OK. We're not bad, we're not good, we're just right in the middle.'
NOTES: Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, now overseeing the White Sox's international scouting, had nothing but praise for Scottie Pippen. Michael Jordan's partner on the championship teams goes into the Hall of Fame on Friday. ``I have the utmost respect for Scottie as a player,' said Krause, who had an acrimonious relationship with Pippen. ``He was a great player. He worked extremely hard, and that's what counts. There are times in a guy's career where things come up. It comes up with everybody, but what you care about is how hard a guy plays, if he gives the 82 efforts a year and he goes to the playoffs and gives you more effort, and that young man did that. He did it everyday. There were no off days for Scottie Pippen, and that's a tremendous tribute to the young man.' ... Juan Pierre went 0 for 3, ending his career-high-tying 16-game hitting streak. ... The Twins optioned SS Trevor Plouffe to make room for Wednesday's starter Glen Perkins.
The Associated Press News Service
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